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Avoid these habits to feel happier every day
Losing an important client at work or fighting with your girlfriend aren’t the only things that can leave you bummed out. Some unexpected factors can cause a dark cloud to hover over you, too.
Here, 7 surprising things you’re doing that might be bringing on an unexplainably poor mood—and how you can drive it away fast.
REASON YOUR MOOD PLUMMETED: YOU SCROLLED THROUGH YOUR OLD SELFIES.
Give your gallery a break: Looking at too many pictures of yourself might leave you feeling lousy, new research from Penn State suggests.
That’s probably because we’re so used to seeing “impression management” photos—photos that are carefully posed or staged to show off someone’s best side— on Instagram and Facebook, says New York City psychologist C. Matthew Nichols, Ph.D.
So when you’re looking at back-to-back-to-back pictures of yourself, you can’t help but compare them to those other photos on your feed, he says. And it’s only natural to feel like your selfies aren’t measuring up.
If you feel yourself getting glum, take a look at pictures of you with loved ones instead: The same study showed that looking at “groupies” might boost your mood.
“It reminds us that we are part of a larger community and are accepted by our peers,” Nichols says.
REASON YOUR MOOD PLUMMETED: YOU SKIMPED ON WATER.
Even mild dehydration—like even if you’re just feeling a little thirsty—has been shown to make guys feel more tense and anxious, according to findings published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Not getting enough water might signal to your body that you’re running short on resources, which can actually send it into fight-or-flight mode, says Tracy Thomas, Ph.D., a psychologist in San Rafael, California.
As a result, you end up feeling edgy, and sort of ill at ease.
The good news, though, is that hydrating can sink those feelings.
“A big glass of water will instantly make your body realise that it has more of what it needs, and it will calm your nervous system down,” Thomas says.
REASON YOUR MOOD PLUMMETED: YOU BINGE-WATCHED NETFLIX ALL DAY.
Hanging out on the couch all day watching Narcos isn’t good for you physically. But it might also have a negative impact on your mood, suggest findings presented at a recent meeting of the American Public Health Association.
One possible reason? Crushing an entire season in one sitting makes you realise you’ve pretty much wasted your day, says Nichols.
You’ll probably finish your shows in a better mood if you stick to watching just one or two, then doing something else, Nichols says.
But if you really want to crank out an entire season in one day, actually pencil it in on your calendar as your plans for the day.
That’ll give you permission to think of it as a reward, rather than feel like it’s a distraction that’s making you avoid other tasks you should be completing, Nichols says.
REASON YOUR MOOD PLUMMETED: YOU SCARFED DOWN AN ENTIRE SLEEVE OF OREOS.
The refined carbs found in processed foods can cause your blood sugar to spike and then dip, which could leave you crabby, says Thomas.
But many packaged foods high in refined carbs also contain partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fats, which one PLoS One study linked to irritability and aggression.
Researchers aren’t exactly sure why, but it could be that trans fats create oxidative stress—damage to your cells caused by molecules called free radicals— and inflammation that might play a role in messing with your mood.
No matter what the reason, you’re better off trading packaged snacks for the fresh stuff, like an apple with peanut butter or some celery sticks with hummus.
That’s because eating more fresh produce is tied to increased levels of happiness and wellbeing, according to new research from the American Journal of Public Health.
REASON YOUR MOOD PLUMMETED: YOU FORGOT YOUR SUNGLASSES.
Without your shades, bright sunlight can force you to squint and scrunch your face into what looks like a frown.
And even though that frown-like facial expression isn’t signalling a bad mood at the time, it can actually trigger feelings of anger and aggression afterwards, according to a study published in the journal Cognition and Emotion.
Your move? Remember to bring sunglasses when you’ll be outside.
REASON YOUR MOOD PLUMMETED: YOU HUNCHED OVER.
Slouching strains the muscles in your neck and shoulders, which can cause a mood-crushing tension headache.
But a poor, slumped posture itself can also make you feel stressed and sad, according to one Health Psychology study.
That’s because poor posture strains your muscles and joints, which prompts your body to pump out the stress hormone cortisol, Thomas says.
The fix is simple: Stand or sit up straight. Studies show this can actually decrease levels of the stress hormone cortisol, boost your mood, and raises your self-esteem.
REASON YOUR MOOD PLUMMETED: YOU JUST PAID YOUR BILLS.
Paying your cable bill doesn’t seem like it should be emotionally draining. But just thinking about money for a minute or two can be enough to dampen your mood, according to one Psychological Science study.
Being reminded of the number in your bank account makes you feel pressured to be productive—like you should be doing something to earn more money or be more successful.
“You might feel like you have to be doing rather than enjoying the act of being,” Nichols says.
Try to knock your bills out before you’re set to hit the gym: Exercising reduces stress, so it can help you cope with the anxiety that thinking about money sometimes causes, says Nichols.